What Really Happens When We’re Stressed

Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When our body senses danger, whether it’s real or imagined, it goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, otherwise known as the “stress response.” The nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. You may find your heart beating faster, your muscles tightening, your hands shaking, your blood pressure rising, your breath quickening. Overall, your senses become sharper. These physical responses increase strength and stamina, speeding up reaction time and enhancing focus. This prepares you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand. Your nervous system cannot distinguish between emotional and physical threats. Whether you’re enraged over an argument with a friend, stressed over a work deadline, or feeling overwhelmed by escalating bills, your body can react just as strongly as if you’re facing a true life-or-death situation. The more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger, making it harder to shut off.


If you’re like many Americans, who experience high levels of stress frequently, your body may exist in a heightened state of stress most of the time. This can lead to serious health problems, including:

* A compromised immune system, including autoimmune diseases

* Digestive and reproductive problems

* Loss of sex drive

* An increased risk of heart attack and stroke

* Escalating the aging process

* Physical and emotional pain

* Sleep problems

* Skin conditions, such as eczema

* Weight gain

* Lack of mental clarity, including inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, poor judgement, negativity, anxiety and worry

* Depression or general unhappiness

* Moodiness, irritability, and anger

* Feeling overwhelmed

* Feeling lonely and isolated

* Developing nervous habits, such as nail biting


If you’re feeling stressed and experiencing any of the above systems, don’t despair. Stress is manageable. Recognizing that stress is impacting your quality of life, is half the battle. In next week’s blog post, I’ll discuss ways to manage stress. You’ve got this!


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©2020 by Lisa Hammett